Although it may sound strange, the turn of events that lead artist Lucia Mocnay to create her first piece of anthropomorphic taxidermy wasn’t that unusual.
Having completed her Bachelor of Fine Art at Monash University in 2001, the Slovakian born, Melbourne raised Mocnay began working with mixed media and found objects before taking her first step into this slightly macabre world by collecting and framing insects.
Lucia: “I’d been working with natural objects for ages and one day I found a grasshopper and thought it’d be cool to try and mount it. My uncle had preserved insects all around his house and I figured that I could teach myself how to do it.”
As a child young Lucia would scour the ground looking for interesting rocks and bones, which she would then take home and turn into art. One hobby lead to another and when Lucia’s boyfriend Justin, a trained tattooist, began looking into buying a piece of taxidermy to use as illustrative inspiration she jumped at the opportunity to add a fox to their burgeoning collection of curios. The couple bought a piece that in retrospect she states was badly made and the young creative made the instant decision to teach herself the art of taxidermy.
Lucia: “I went from not liking the sensation of touching meat to working with the skins of animals. I remember the first time I unveiled a fox skin it was very strange. Once you start thinking about the creative process, and start to imagine the piece that you’re creating, you forget about what’s in your hands.”
With her mind filled with inspiration, Mocnay began to feel the magic of creating
a piece of art from what had once been a living creature. It’s an experience she describes to Makers as being “magical and inspiring” and it seems that for Lucia there’s no turning back. Her current work is based on children’s fairy tales and universal creation myths, historical eras and beloved characters. She creates one off pieces from ethically sourced furs, put together with conscious and curious involvement.
Lucia: “I don’t want my animals to look like Frankenstein’s monster. I try to keep a healthy respect for the animal and its spirit. My partner, being an illustrator and tattooist had gotten me to dress up over the years and pose for drawings that he then used for sleeves and backdrops. I’d dress up and pretend to be say, a gypsy, zombie or bride so he could take photographs. I ended up with a wardrobe full of costumes and after we bought that original fox I started dressing it up. I had so many ideas for different characters and that was about the same time that I thought I’d teach myself how to taxidermy.”
It’s interesting how all of the elements of Lucia’s life have come together. For the artist it seems the decision was more organic than a conscious choice. Things evolved and she continues to be inspired by both her animals and the art her partner creates.
Over the past few years the popularity of taxidermy has surged in Melbourne. Lucia credits the rise to several factors including the steady increase in the number of consumers wanting to fill their homes with unusual antiques & a newfound appreciation from the general public for old artisan skills. The taboo of working with dead animals is also slowly lifting as artists such as Lucia have made the conscious choice to work with ethically sourced animals.
Lucia currently works on a commission basis as she explores the option of gallery representation. With her first exhibition in the planning stage, she is keen to “clear her studio” of the pieces she has been working on over the past few years. In the meantime she continues to build up her skill set, working alongside her partner and two children in their home studio.